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Smith Haut Lafitte owners buy Napa Valley winery

The owners of Château Smith Haut Lafitte in Bordeaux have said they are excited to own a vineyard estate in Napa Valley and plan to begin a new winemaking project from the 2020 harvest.

Florence and Daniel Cathiard, owners of Smith Haut Lafitte in Pessac-Léognan, have bought a Napa Valley vineyard estate originally founded by the Scottish Rennie Brothers in 1885.

They lauded the ‘exceptional terroir’ of the estate, which lies at the base of the Mayacamas mountains and covers more than 100 hectares – including around 25 hectares of vineyard sitting across the Rutherford and St Helena American Viticultural Areas.

It was most recently part of the Flora Springs wine group owned by the Komes & Garvey families, who acquired it in 1977.

‘We feel at home here,’ Florence Cathiard told Decanter.com from California this week, citing the estate’s focus on classic Bordeaux grape varieties.

Cabernet Sauvignon is the dominant variety planted, with some Merlot and Cabernet Franc, plus a small amount of Malbec.

‘It’s surrounded by forest, and there are three small lakes and a spring, which was still running when we came to see it at the end of last summer,’ said Cathiard. ‘It’s incredible.’

There is also a winery and Cathiard said the team was investing in new equipment in order to begin a fresh winemaking project from the 2020 harvest, under the name ‘Cathiard Family Estate’.

The deal does not include the Flora Springs brand name or any wine inventory and the Komes and Garvey families still own several other quality vineyard sites.

Some of the vines ‘are pretty old’, said Cathiard, ‘which suits us because they already have low yields’. She added that a portion of the vineyard was already organic. ‘We want to extend this as fast as we are able to do so.’ 

Smith Haut Lafitte’s technical director, Fabien Teitgen, will help to oversee the 2020 harvest.  

Ben Morken, a young US oenologist & agronomist who trained at Smith Haut Lafitte, will be the permanent winemaker at the Napa Valley estate.

‘This new adventure reminds us of our beginnings at Smith Haut Lafitte 30 years ago and we have exactly the same expectations,’ said the Cathiards.

Financial details were not disclosed.

Read Jane Anson’s recent profile of Smith Haut Lafitte, including new wine reviews


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